New safe working area charter secures industry support

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A commitment by the UK Material Handling Association (UKMHA), the trade body representing all aspects of the UK’s material handling industry, to improve workplace safety has attracted widespread support.

The association chose its annual Safety Convention for the launch of its new Safe Working Area charter, a blueprint to ensure the safety of engineers carrying out forklift maintenance work at a customer’s premises.

The Safe Working Area Charter has been written by UKMHA’s Safe Working Group, in conjunction with members who carry out on-site maintenance and repair of their customers’ material handling and plant equipment. The charter stipulates that all engineers must be provided with a safe area in which to carry out their work and outlines the specific requirements of such zones. 

UKMHA used the Safety Convention, which was attended by more than 150 stakeholders from across the material handling, logistics and warehousing sectors, to urge members and non-members alike who have engineers attending their sites to sign up to the new charter and demonstrate their commitment to helping the association improve safety standards.

The new charter follows the IMHX-launch of the association’s latest Guidance Note, GN70, which is a response to the evolving technology used to power battery electric and hybrid-powered trucks. The higher voltages involved with new functions such as regenerative braking, lithium-ion batteries and electric drives pose a risk to the safety of engineers unless they are fully aware of the hazards and how to avoid them.

David Goss, Technical Director, UKMHA said: “Anyone with a stake in this important industry will recognise the importance of keeping workers safe and we were delighted with the positive response from everyone who attended the Safety Convention. Many of those attending have agreed to sign up to the charter and in doing so, they are making a firm commitment to ensuring the safety of visiting engineers.”

One of those pledging their support for the Charter was the Health & Safety Executive, whose HM Principal Inspector of Health and Safety, Kanwal Kanda, was one of the speakers at the event. He outlined the legal safety requirements for employers in sectors involving the use of forklift trucks and the penalties they could face should they be found negligent in the event of an accident.

Another to pledge their support was the UK Warehouse Association, whose CEO Clare Bottle was another of the speakers at the convention. She said the charter was a very important document and one UKWA members would be interested in adopting.

Ms Bottle told the convention that the UKWA was attempting to create a culture of safety throughout the warehouse sector, where safety was recognised as an important part of the overall operational process.

She said the UKWA had also urged its members to adopt best practice in the use of forklifts, especially the wearing of seat belts. The importance of forklift operators wearing seat belts was chosen as the message of the inaugural UK National Forklift Safety Day, the safety campaign initiated by UKMHA founder, the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA).

Scott McGready, Chair of UKMHA’s Safe Working Group, announced the launch of the charter at the Safety Convention. 

He said: “We are looking raise the bar on safety across the material handling sector, not just for the end-user but for everyone involved. The launch of the Safe Working Area Charter is an important step towards this and will help ensure the safety of engineers working at a customer’s site.

“The UKMHA’s commitment to improving safety standard across the material handling sector is part of an ongoing process and as the sector evolves then the association’s guidance will likewise evolve. We will continue to encourage members and non-members alike to raise any concerns they may have regarding safety and where appropriate, we will do what we can to improve things.”

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